53 Scientists Send Letter Urging Regulators to Leave E-Cigs Alone
As the World Health Organization works towards stricter regulation of electronic cigarettes, a group of 53 scientists have joined together to send an open letter in defense of e-cigs. The letter was addressed to the WHO Director Margaret Chan and signed by some of the world’s leading scientists from North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The scientists urged the WHO not to regulate ecigs as tobacco products, warning that it could have disastrous global health consequences in the long run.
After officials from the WHO discussed electronic cigarette at a meeting last year, documents were leaked showing plans to classify ecigs as tobacco products under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. As the leaked documents made their way around the world, many scientists and medical experts had growing concerns that the WHO might act prematurely and do significant damage to the fight against smoking-related disease.
In response, the scientists wrote an official letter expressing their concerns and urging the WHO to consider the ramifications. “These products could be among the most significant health innovations of the 21st century – perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives. The urge to control and suppress them as tobacco products should be resisted,” the letter said.
If ecigs are classified as tobacco products by the WHO, many countries would feel pressure to raise taxes, ban advertisements, or restrict ecig use in public venues. All of these measures would ultimately hurt the ecig industry and detract current smokers from switching to ecigs as a harm reduction strategy.
Scientists are not the only ones that back electronic cigarettes. Surprisingly, the tobacco companies are also standing with ecigs, perhaps because the biggest cigarette makers have already launched their own lines of ecigarettes in an order to offset falling profits as smoking rates decline. Kingsley Wheaton from British American Tobacco told Reuters that classifying e-cigs as tobacco would make it more difficult for smokers to find a favorable alternative to cigarettes.
In response to the letter, the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative program manager Arumando Peruga said that no final decisions have been made regarding electronic cigarettes. The topic of ecig regulations will be considered again at a Moscow meeting in October 2014. “At this point the only thing I can say is that we are elaborating these regulations and they will soon be available to you,” said Peruga.
The world’s scientists do not plan to let ecigs go down without a fight. Gerry Stimson, emeritus professor at the Imperial College London helped organize this week’s open letter. He told Reuters that the WHO was taking a “bizarre” approach to ecigs and were treating the products with harsher intents than regulating agencies in the United Sates and Europe. “We want to make sufficient noise now before things get too set in stone,” he explained.
For now, we will have to wait and see how the WHO will handle this issue in October. It’s a positive sign that so many medical experts and scientists are taking a proactive approach to electronic cigarettes. The scientific community has the most likely chances of successfully bringing victory to the ecig industry. Even regulators cannot argue with research and scientific evidence. Hopefully, these experts will continue to back their ecig defense with additional studies that offer an educated look at the impact of vaping.
Do you think the WHO will change their current stance on ecigs or are we doomed to see our favorite vaping products regulated as tobacco products worldwide?